Mobvoi is building up quite a following thanks to its range of low-cost but well designed, stylish and feature-packed smartwatches and the firm has successfully replicated that mix with its TicPods Free true wireless earbuds.
The TicPods Free have an RRP of £119.99 and are available via Amazon* as well as Mobvoi’s own website and various third parties.
Like all products in this category, the TicPods Free are housed in a charging case when not in use and here the lozenge shaped case is the first thing you’ll see when opening up the retail packaging.
Mobvoi has made a real effort to ensure that your first impression is a good one – the plastic charging case has a nice silky texture on the underneath and sides, a ridged upper which provides a useful element of grip, and just enough weight to give it a ‘premium’ feel.
The case feels capable of surviving years of being carried around in a rucksack or handbag without suffering scratches or other damage and its firm magnetic closure means it’s not going to be springing open unexpectedly while being used to store the earbuds.
The case is also colour-matched to the buds (which arrive already inside and part-charged so you can crack on with pairing them and giving them a test run), while spare rubber tips and the charging cable can be found in the bottom of the retail packaging.
My review pair came in a striking red which Mobvoi dubs ‘lava’ but for those looking for a more understated look they also come in navy and white.
Superficially similar to Apple’s AirPods, the earbuds share the same silky texture that dominates the case and manage to feel even more solid and well built than their home does.
Controlling the TicPods Free is done by three simple gestures – stroke either earbud gently with your finger to turn volume up or down, double tap to skip forward to the next song and hold your finger down for two seconds to either pause/play your music (left hand earbud) or to call up your device’s voice assistant (right hand).
I like the fact that the TicPods use true touch controls rather than the push buttons of many of their rivals and the controls become second nature pretty quickly, however I would have preferred the ability to skip back to the previous track rather than both buds being able to skip forward.
On the plus side, the buds detect when they’re first placed in, or removed from, your ear and automatically start or stop playing your music accordingly.
Mobvoi claims up to 4 hours use from a single charge, though I found myself getting closer to three. The case can fully charge the buds four times so you’re not going to be running out of battery mid commute.
When they need charging a discreet LED on the TicPods will flash red, but if you’re storing the buds in the case you’re probably not going to be seeing that alert very often as they’ll top up charge between uses.
There’s also a status light on the case which will alert you when it needs charging, you’ll need to allow up to 3 hours for this task.
Some potential buyers may be disappointed to learn the case charges via a micro USB cable rather than USB-C so those with newer mobiles are going to need two charging cables in their bag if they’re going to want to charge the case while away from home.
Sound quality was good with plenty of depth, bass and clarity, though at the highest volumes there was occasionally some distortion. The ambient noise cancellation ensures your listening isn’t disturbed by the world around you – perfect for that noisy rush hour commute.
A built-in mic means you can make and receive calls without removing the headphones but it’s a little underpowered and unfortunately means you can end up sounding distant to the other party.
The TicPods offer a great combination of build quality, style and sound performance which not only beat anything offered by cheaper rivals, but also mark them out as a great alternative to more expensive offerings such as Apple’s AirPods.